Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Concern about 'image' in foreign countries but not worried about stopping harassment, need for justice or ensuring independence of institutions?

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Senior journalist Nidhi Razdan recently expressed her concern over India's image in the world, especially, the Western Media.

She tweeted, 'Crackdown on farmers, jail comedians for jokes they didn’t tell, arresting journalists, internet shutdowns, a troll army that unleashes abuse 'against' @rihanna @meenaharris and all critics- India has a serious international image problem. Real democracy is our biggest asset'. 

This was about her piece in Gulf News. While she is a well-known journalist and speaks objectively, we expect better. It is not just about 'image', what must concern us is harassment, atrocities, be worried about how to stop injustice and set things right in our country.

Self-styled moral brigades, vigilantes and groups that attack and lynch need to be reined in. Further, when laws brought to discriminate and  harass, when people specially targeted over food, life style, marriage, existence that are under attack, it's not mere 'image problem'.

This is serious, it affects everyone. But it affects minorities [read, Muslims] more. It is about lives. Let's talk of rot in the society, need for justice, own issues. This is a big issue and a democracy like India must ensure that institutions remain independent. 

Lynchings to law over 'Love Jihad', selective use of draconian laws like UAPA, when houses demolished depending on owner's name, when on mere suspicion of what someone has eaten or the cattle he was buying or grazing, person can be attacked, then it's not merely an image problem.

Concern should be towards stopping Hate, bigotry, tackling injustice, checking the collapse of institutions, pushing back such laws that are brought to oppress and above all think of ways, how to improve a society that ignores lynchings and atrocities--attacks on minorities are so 'normalized' that doesn't seem to bother the majority!

Either in Delhi violence or later, we have seen how suspicious people enter mob and amid police presence, attack or wield gun at students [remember Jamia], however, they get away easily and not booked under tough laws. 

However, victims, activists or those defending themselves get booked and sent to jails. I don't want to blame those who have good intentions or question their role. But they should call a spade a spade, talk about the elephant in the room--communalism, hatred, compromised institutions.

So once again, it must be said that when people are specially targeted, when there are inflammatory speeches and attacks on minorities and the victims are often penalized [not the perpetrators], then it's not just 'image problem', this is too deep. 

Let's talk of rot in the society, need for justice, own issues. For those, who call themselves liberals, it is important that human rights are universal and fascism, everywhere must be fought and condemned. We need to rectify, redress and not just think about projecting our 'image' outside.

Lot of people who want to be seen as 'liberals' too whitewash, tend to pass off this organised violence as 'fringe' or 'exception'. Institutions have been tamed or willingly started toeing the line, media has been controlled and earlier too it lumpenized the middle-class.

As a result majority is not affected much by anything--even laws on 'Love Jihad', meat, conversion et al. Reality is unlike Western democracies, here institutions don't have the mechanism or willingness and strength to undo the damage. 

Alas, when there is international coverage that makes us get serious, sit up, take notice and in turn, this forces institutions to act sometimes, then our 'liberals' call it 'image problem'. 'Just image problem'. 'Handle it'--that's so simple!